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Spirituality

When we don't pay attention it's hard to guess if the bud is blooming or fading.

When we don’t pay attention it’s hard to guess if the bud is blooming or fading.

I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about Spirituality.  In my book, Manifest Divinity, I talk about spirituality as our unique relationship to the Divine (however we might define that.)  I stand by that, because I do think spirituality is highly influenced by that feeling of connection.  But we all have moments when we question that connection, or wonder if it’s even there.

There is something that sustains us, even through that “dark night of the soul”.  We cling to life and are wired for survival, but WHEN people give up varies dramatically.  We press on, going through the motions, doing what needs to be done or we curl up and check out.  We continue to lean on the connection, out of faith or habit, we look for something “more concrete”, or we despair.

What we often don’t recognize is that challenges to spirituality often strengthen the connection.  When night falls we trust the sun will rise again, because that is our experience.  When winter comes we trust that eventually it will be spring, because we’ve seen that happen time and time again.  When we have lost touch with our spiritual connection, and hold on until it returns that too becomes our experience.

The geese are coming through headed north.  It doesn't mean warm, but it does mean hope.

The geese are coming through headed north. It doesn’t mean warm, but it does mean hope.

For many people, coming out the other side is what actually crystallizes their connection to spirit.   Having the experience of that dark night is the contrast that makes spirituality real.  Someone asked me a few weeks ago what was the experience that gave me such a strong connection to my own spirituality.  I don’t know.

I talk about playing the Faerie as a very young child in my book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity Based Perspective.  As far back as I can remember I’ve always felt connected to something.  Those connections have been challenged in large and small ways.

My mother tells the story of her 3-year-old daughter “disappearing” on Memorial Day weekend.  This is a big weekend in Minnesota.  It’s when everyone goes up to open the cabin at the lake.  They found me, with my dog, walking on the center meridian of the main highway headed north out of Minneapolis.   I was, apparently, unconcerned.  I don’t remember the incident, it had no impact on me.  I know I trusted the dog.

I got lost as a kindergartener trying to get home from a new friend’s house.  I do remember this one.  I found a spot to plant myself and cried.  A stranger (probably the woman whose house I was sitting in front of) collected me up and took me home.  I’ve always had the support I need when I really need it.  I also knew my own address.  I have to meet the Divine half way, and do my share of the work.

There's enough light now for herbs in the window.

There’s enough light now for herbs in the window.

Fifty years later I am again awed by the way help and support has appeared in my life when I needed it.  I trust it, I count on it, because I have no other choice.   I don’t take it for granted.  I know I’m expected to do my share of the work as well.  Some of that means getting up, going through the motions, and doing what needs to be done.

Spring is coming.  Light and warmth are returning.  The green peeks through and my hands are back in the dirt (inside, but in the dirt.)   It’s hard to have any perspective on spiritual journey while we’re walking that center median overwhelmed by traffic.  It’s the shift of time and distance that allows us to see how big the small miracles in our lives truly are.

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My books are available in paperback or on kindle at Amazon or Immanion Press

 

Manifest Divinity Front Cover hi res

book_when_gods_come_knocking_small-1

Review

1216131020It seems early to consider things like New Years resolutions.  (I don’t really work well with those anyway.)  Still I seem to be getting lots of push from the Universe to review the past year and think about dreams, wishes and goals for the next.  My women’s business group is working on creating our vision statements for 2014.  Our Yule ritual planners have asked us to consider where we’ve been in this past year and what our hopes are for the next.  Even visiting with old friends at the funeral last week and digging through the holiday ornaments put me in that reminiscent state of mind.

Luckily having a blog gives me a handy record of the past year.  My first post in 2013 was about the family egg nog challenge.   This year our “secret ingredient” is sugar.   I have desert, which seems easy at first until you start thinking about having an impact after a full meal where every course features sugar in some form.  All I’ll say is that this year I’m playing to win.

Zac won last year with a spinach and orange salad and egg nog dressing.

Zac won last year with a spinach and orange salad and egg nog dressing.

Then in February I took a trip to sunny California.  Given our early sub-zero temperatures I’m looking forward to giving a workshop presentation at Pantheacon this year.   March was Paganicon where Orion and I hosted the con suite.  This year I’m seriously considering proposing a new workshop (that will likely cause much controversy – my middle name.)  It’s good that I’m planning so many presentations since I’m really hoping my second book “When Gods Come Knocking: A Continuing Exploration of Relationship with the Divine” will be released (through Immanion Press) early in the year.

April and May were all about welcoming spring.  I didn’t garden last year and I really hope to do at least a little in 2014.  I also hope I’ll manage to get my taxes in early for a change.  In June this year we had that big storm.  I expect a little (metaphorical) storminess about that time in 2014 as well.  Karina is turning 21 (my baby is all grown up!) and I’m planning to have bariatric surgery.  My big wish for 2014 is to get my health back on track and that surgery will go a long way towards making it happen.   My weight is aggravating my back problems to the point where some kind of surgery seems necessary.  This one will potentially address more than one problem.

I may need help to reclaim the garden!

I may need help to reclaim the garden!

July and August were about adventures in camping.  I’ll be recovering so it’s hard to say what will be possible in 2014, but I remember doing a lot of similar post-surgery travels in my 30’s so anything is possible.  As we moved into the fall I got caught up in a rush of busy.  I can hope for more of the same in 2014.  Hopefully I’ll find some time out amidst the crazy.  Maybe I’ll be editing my third book by then.

That will pretty much bring us around again to the holiday season.  My wishes for next year are that my family will stay happy and healthy – and that I will myself on that bandwagon.  I hope my writing influence expands out into the world and finds its audience.  I also hope that my readers will find my work inspirational and affirming.  I hope that I can do my part to make the world I live in a kind place and that we can live in beauty and bounty.

Thank you all for being with me this year.  I hope you will continue to read, comment and share in the next.

Prayer Beads

I do a workshop called “Daily Practice Sucks”.   Daily practice is one of those things that most religious practices encourage in one form or another.  Some people are great at daily practice.  They find their thing and they run with it.  They get a lot out of it and it really helps.

Other people are like me.  We struggle with doing daily practice.  It doesn’t matter how long I do something, I never seem to get to that point people talk about where I hit the “zone”.  I don’t become addicted to exercise, or feel horrible enough without my daily yoga to keep  at it.  I have been doing this spirituality stuff for a long time and I’ve tried a lot of things.

In my book (Manifest Divinity published by Immanion press and available in print or e-book from Amazon) I give exercises to help people achieve a stronger relationship with the Divine – as they choose to define that.  I suggest doing daily practice.  It works, it helps, it’s great.  I’m just really bad at it.

The workshop I give addresses a lot of the problems people have with daily practice.  In a smaller group (which is my preference) I can go through and address individuals about what they are hoping to achieve from their daily practice.  We can discuss what they currently do, or don’t do.  I love doing this workshop.  I always learn something new.  I love sharing ideas.  Best of all people come in saying they don’t have a daily practice and they leave saying “I have a daily practice.”

Earth Conclave Prayer Beads

One of the things I do in the workshop is share some of my own practices.  When I was at the Women and Spirituality Conference last month in Mankato I promised I’d post one of those practices on line.  This gets us back to the title of this week’s blog – Prayer Beads.

Prayer beads are something I learned to work with from the folks at the Earth Conclave. (http://www.earthconclave.org)  They are useful for a lot of different kinds of prayers.  People make prayer beads in many cultures and religious structures from Buddhism to Catholicism.  It makes remembering prayers easier.  It’s fun, portable and pretty.  They can be a very powerful tool for doing daily practice.

Making your own set allows you to personalize the prayer to suit your particular needs.  If you want to do a set of prayer beads for health, the people you pray for always, you can do that.  You can even add extra strings for those occasions when something extra arises.  You can make prayer beads to create sacred space.  You can make prayer beads to honor the ancestors.  You can make a prayer of gratitude into prayer beads and then wear them as a necklace to remind you to walk in gratitude throughout the day.  They are a great tool.

I wrote a prayer and made up a set of prayer beads.  I said my prayer in my workshop and got the requests to post it. So here it is, my on again off again daily practice prayer bead prayer:

I am Golden

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Gratitude

I am grateful for the Earth and the gifts and tools of Earth

I am grateful for the Air and the gifts and tools of Air

I am grateful for the Fire and the gifts and tools of Fire

I am grateful for the Water and the gifts and tools of Water

I am grateful for the Bounty in my life

I am all things and all things are me

I am a magical child of the Gods

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Love and surrounded by Love

I pray in Love and Light

Holding True to my own Heart

I pray for the Earth that sustains and nurtures me

I pray for my Patron Deities

I pray for Myself

I pray for the Waters that quench my Desires

I pray for my Totems

I pray for my Family

I pray for the Fires that warm and move me

I pray for the Ancestors that love me beyond all reason and support me in my work

I pray for my Clan

I pray for the Air, breath of life that inspires me

I pray for the Mysterious Ones who cross my path to aid and teach me

I pray for my Community

I Blossom in a sea of Love

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

Blessed Be

My Prayer beads

Pride

Can a tree be proud?

Pride is something I’ve always struggled with.  It seemed to me growing up that any time I felt proud of myself I was warned not to get to big a head, not to get too full of myself, not to brag.  I was told that people were proud of me, but often for things that required no effort on my part or that I wasn’t especially proud of myself.  Sometimes it felt like someone else being proud of me was like them taking credit for something I had done.  All in all a very complicated word.

Orion and Karina

As an adult I’ve had the experience of being very proud of my children.  I probably didn’t tell them so often enough, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on the emotion.  It’s not so much that I’m proud of myself for what I may have contributed to their upbringing.  It’s more that I am proud to know them as independent of me.  I am proud that there are things that they do that I couldn’t have, or wouldn’t have done.  I am proud to watch them come into their own.  I am proud to see them meet the challenges life tosses their way.

Now I’m learning again, about how to be proud of myself.

Manifest Divinity (by ME!) available at Amazon or Immanion Press

It’s the book,  Manifest Divinity.  I have something concrete I can point to and say, “I did that.”  I also have a responsibility (to myself and my publisher) to promote my work.  There’s a conundrum!

September has been quite the adventure.  I’ve got a new interview posted with my publisher An Interview with Lisa Spiral Besnett.   I’ve done a book signing.  I’ve been doing podcasts on the blog talk radio at The Priestess Show.  I have had to stand up and be proud of my work.  I’ve had to talk about it with humility, but not shyness.  I’ve had to say with conviction, “You should go buy my book.”

So here I am filled with gratitude for all the support and attention people have shown for both me and my work.  I am humbled by how many people will stand up for my book without even having read it, just because they know me.

Orion with Star Foster (formerly) of Patheos

The best of course

is that Orion says I’m his favorite author.  I am proud.

I am also continuing to ask for help and support.  To encourage people to get the book, spread the word, write reviews and send me hints about marketing.  In the meantime I suppose I should get to work on writing a book proposal for the next one.

Look at me signing a book.

Shrines

The theme of Sacred Harvest Festival this year was shrines.  That’s where I was camping at the beginning of the month and where I also presented two workshops (neither of them about shrines.)

Shrine to Cernunos Irish Lord of the Hunt

I  really enjoy visiting shrines.  I’m fond of the side chapels in churches.  I like walking through cemeteries.  I nod at the statues in Asian restaurants.  I’m happy to stop and rest on memorial benches and enjoy the view.  I readily light a candle, or a stick of incense or drop a bit of libation when invited to participate in the honoring of a shrine.

Visiting a shrine is like meeting the relatives.  It’s a level of intimacy that, although usually not too risky, isn’t something where participating makes everyone who visits comfortable.  A shrine, like the relatives, must be approached with a willingness to simply accept them as they are.  Shrines are a gift to and from those who tend them.

I notice shrines when I visit peoples homes, even when they are tucked away and unremarked upon.  Some shrines are a very conscious part of a spiritual practice.  Some are entirely unconscious as though shrines are hardwired into our genetics.  Photos collected with the dead relatives in one cluster and the living in another are effective ancestor shrines.  Collections of shells from a visit to the ocean or acorns, or stones often honor the memory of a place.   People have shrines to music, and art, and literature which they honor but do not necessarily acknowledge in a conscious way.

An unconscious shrine to love and marriage

In my book, Manifest Divinity, I identify the Divine very broadly.  I suggest that anything that produces that feeling of awe is inherently a manifestation of the Divine.  Shrines, for me, are a way for people to connect with the Divine in their day to day lives.  By visiting them I get a chance to touch the Divine the way others experience it and expand my own experience and understanding.

Buddha in the snow

Here are a few more shrines:

Can shrines be portable? Prayer beads of Earth Conclave

Or temporary? Place setting for a dinner in honor of the Red Dragon

Ancestors of the blood, of the heart or of the spirit can be honored in ancestor shrines

Shrine to Epony. Do you know a girl with a shrine to horses?

I am of the Divine and the Divine is in me.

What shrines do you keep in your home or visit regularly?

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